Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sierra Madre: Once Again The Mouse That Roared

Fear our wrath
It had been a good educational week around my house. My older son, now having achieved the storied age of 13, was accepted into the Pasadena Youth Symphony Orchestra for his abilities at playing the flute. He mixes up his eclectic musical routine by playing Bach cantatas in the kitchen, and then listening to Skrillex and Portugal the Man on headphones in his room. He is also jetting off to the Naval Academy at Annapolis tomorrow to attend the week long STEM program they run for selected kids his age. All that and he aced his math final. Pretty heady stuff for a dad that only barely eked his way through high school.

It wasn't always like this, you know. We'd had some rough patches with the boy and feared that he might not attain whatever hoped for success fantasies he could live out for us some day. That is, he'd end up like everyone else. Pretty OK, but maybe not quite what might have been. At least in our minds. Neither a baseball star nor a president. Now we can start believing again.

So this is how I came to understand that there are some remarkable people out in the world who can actually unlock the hard little green sponge that is the mind of a child. In our case a remarkable music instructor at his school and a math tutor who runs a private teaching service downtown. I call them child whisperers. They work great miracles in ways that I cannot quite comprehend. But I am very proud of the results.

Educating your kids is worth fighting for
There was another educational miracle that touched a lot of us pretty deeply, and that was yesterday's decision by the PUSD's Board of Education on an appointment to fill an empty two year at-large seat. Something that on the surface might seem like a fairly humble thing, but for those of us who have for some inexplicable reason chosen to immerse ourselves deeply into the wild and strange world of local politics around here, an event of far larger significance than you might have ever known.

Here is how James Figueroa describes what went down in today's Pasadena Star News (link):

Learning Works director Mikala Rahn appointed to Pasadena school board vacancy
By James Figueroa, Staff Writer
@jfigscribe on Twitter

PASADENA - Mikala Rahn, the founder of Learning Works charter school, will join the Pasadena Unified School District board after she was appointed Saturday to fill the remaining two years of a vacant seat.

Rahn, a Sierra Madre resident, won the board seat on a 4-2 vote by the six other members of the board, and is set to be sworn in at the next meeting on June 11. She will take Seat 4, an at-large position representing the entire district.

"It's an honor," Rahn said. "I'm feeling very, very good that were all going to get along and it's going to be good."

She beat out investment banker Carmen Vargas in the final vote, following the board's interviews with nine finalists on Saturday. The finalists had been selected from a pool of 37 applicants who qualified for the position.

"I think she just stood out," said board member Scott Phelps, who nominated Rahn and cited her extensive experience working with PUSD as an indication that she could quickly become familiar with issues in the school district.

Learning Works, established five years ago, is dedicated to getting dropouts back into classrooms and has proven successful with its "chasers" model, staff members who follow-up with absent students.

Rahn also works with homeless youth and others on probation through various organization, and she was previously involved in PUSD as a Sierra Madre PTA president and Washington Middle School site council member.

Although the seat is at-large, the appointment satisfied Sierra Madre residents who had decried a lack of representation on the board with the establishment of voting districts this year. Some residents had threatened to start a petition that could overturn the appointment with a special election, but they backed off once Rahn won the seat.

However, the appointment also ensures there won't be any Latino board members for the next two years. Board President Renatta Cooper pushed to appoint a Latino candidate, backing Vargas in the final vote, but no other board member wanted to make race a factor in the decision.

There can be little doubt that Sierra Madre resident Mikala Rahn's appointment to the final two years of this "at large" seat is in large part due to her remarkable resume' and successes with Learning Works. Her real world accomplishments alone make her a great selection to a Board of Education that has, in the minds of many, gone badly adrift over the last few years. A place where some rather bizarre ideological agendas have dominated, with predictable results that have been devastating to the core mission of any school district. Teaching kids.

But that said, you also need to consider just how far her appointment has symbolically taken Sierra Madre. Here we were the community that had become, under an unfair and poorly conceived "subdistricting" scheme that purposefully denied us the right to vote in last March's Board of Education election, something of an unwanted stepchild. One whose own very real interests had been covertly shoved aside to accommodate a cynical, politically conceived and racially balkanized catastrophe of a system that seemingly had no real use for us beyond serving as a reliable source of tax revenue for them.

All of that has now gone full circle with the aims of our detractors having failed miserably, and Sierra Madre getting its first representative on the Board of Education in years. Not the kind of outcome the Ken Chawkins, Peter Dreiers, Jon Fuhrmans, Renatta Coopers and Bill Bogaards of this world thought they would get. Or hoped would happen.

(Inserting a reader's comment here: There was a miracle that occurred at the school board meeting yesterday. As the board was immersed in an intense debate over Latino vs. qualified person to fill the vacancy, a young voice spoke out from the audience. This whole board meeting was filmed and as such a cameraman and his assistant - or girlfriend - had been there the entire day listening to the proceedings. This young Latina spoke up in the midst of the impassioned discussion and said that she didn't think it was right that someone be placed in a job just because of what they look like. She thought that considering someone's qualifications was more important than considering their race. I tell you, her comment took all the wind out of the room, and really and truly, I believe that is why Mikala Rahn was elected to fill the vacancy. Talk about speaking truth to power!)

I believe a lot of that might actually be behind us now. This was a serious defeat for the bad guys. People who for the first time in quite a while will find themselves sitting on the sidelines as the important decisions are made. This PUSD thing just might get saved yet.

It also appears that we will be hearing some very good news shortly regarding our sorely tested Middle School. The bids are at long last in and it looks like ground will be broken soon for a brand new school that will make all of us proud. A fitting testimonial to a town that always leads the district in academic achievement. We take education seriously in Sierra Madre. We take care of our kids. We need to take care of them all.

Would any of this have happened had some brave residents not gone to the meetings, made their feelings known and yelled their bloody heads off at every opportunity, and in every conceivable way possible? I kind of doubt it.

Once again we are the mouse that roared. The smallest town in a big school district that refused to be ignored. It works for us. And often that is all we have. I doubt they'll ever think stealing our vote is a good idea again. We're a terrible nuisance once we get riled.

On a personal note I would like to thank my friends Gretchen Vance and Tony Brandenburg for standing up. I hope this community understands what they owe to you both.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

60 comments:

  1. Congrats to number 1 son.

    Neuroblast Films

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    1. Indeed congratulations.
      I'm sure the teachers did a great job, but the desire to learn, the respect for learning, really comes first from home - so good on the dad and mom!

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    2. congrats! great news!

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  2. There was a miracle that occurred at the school board meeting yesterday. As the board was immersed in an intense debate over Latino vs. qualified person to fill the vacancy, a young voice spoke out from the audience. This whole board meeting was filmed and as such a cameraman and his assistant (or girlfriend) had been there the entire day listening to the proceedings. This young Latina spoke up in the midst of the impassioned discussion and said that she didn't think it was right that someone be placed in a job just because of what they look like. she thought that considering someone's qualifications was more important than considering their race. I tell you, her comment took all the wind out of the room, and really and truly, I believe that is why Mikala Rahn was elected to fill the vacancy. Talk about speaking truth to power!

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    1. i talked with her a bit, she was a PUSD student graduate.

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    2. hold on there. this was an appointment, not an election. it was a great choice, but this was still made for, not by us.

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    3. Yes, but look what this person's comment brought out into the light.

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    4. Right TB., maybe for the people, but not by the people. @6:59, the entire board meeting was not filmed. Not sure if that was an accident, or on purpose as the plan was for comments to open the meeting.

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    5. I believe it was accidental. There was a problem with the camera and power source.

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    6. Oh wow, so nothing was recorded? How convenient. Was it transcribed?

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    7. Was the last vote a rahn vs murga thing or was it whoever wanted to nominate whomever and then vote on that motion? I was hoping to be able to watch the video, but now it appears that wont be possible. :-(

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    8. The last vote was Rahn/Vargas.

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    9. No, just the beginning of the meeting was not taped. The crew was there after opening comments until the end, and what an ending it was.

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  3. No, the whole board meeting was not filmed as the initial public comments were not taped. There were some significant comments made.

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    1. What was said?

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    2. Roberta Martinez from the Pasadena Latino Coalition tried to do some damage control during public comments. She said that the letter was supposed to have been corrected regarding the specific 3 candidates. The letter was unsigned, but given the spokesperson for PLC was Stella Murga, perhaps they will be finding another less obvious spokesperson in the future.

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    3. Phelps pointed out that a race based pick would have been illegal. You can only imagine what was going on in Renatta's Cooper's head. I hear there are people who want her censured.

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    4. TB also spoke and asked for the three board members involved to recuse themselves, based on their actions.

      Moderator: The shift that happened yesterday was thanks to a few more people, that gained little personally, but were working for the common good.

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    5. Either that or they realized following Race Based Renatta's plan would land them on the wrong side of the law.

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    6. i was grateful to see so many sierra madre people there. More than a couple of times the board acknowledged gretchen and her family speaking up- i doubt they realized how much time has passed- that was way back in July, 2011.

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    7. Did they recognize anyone else TB?

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    8. Of course Murga had another fan speak her praises during public comment. One last ditch effort before the interview, of course.

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    9. Some people were there only to be interviewed. That was clear.
      They showed up, said their piece, some cried, then left.

      There were others there to insure the people of Sierra Madre were fairly represented by witnessing the process, and planning an alternative if the process was completely unfair, and the choice was inappropriate. Those unsung heroes need to be acknowledged, even if not by name, but by deed. Thank you!

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    10. They did, they said nice things about Ruben and Cushion. they also commented on the active interest of Sierra Madre (the Koerbers, Vances, Brandenburgs, and Sandy S. were there anywhere 3-7 hours)

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    11. Spell correct strikes again. Cushon.

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  4. I wonder what our faithless representatives to the Redistricting Task Force would say now? I would think that even Bart Doyle and Joe Mosca would have difficulty explaining their backstabbing today.

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  5. I think the reps to the Redistricting Task Force would be crying. There were a few cries during the interviews too. Don't understand the desperation.

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    1. In the future they need to make sure there is plenty of Kleenex on hand. Like they do in psychologist offices.

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    2. I think Bogaard snuck out the door before he started crying. He really didn't want to be spotted, and those pesky Tattler paparazzi memorialized his attendance at the interviews.

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    3. Bogus, Fuhrman and Chawkins were spotted in Old Town Pasadena this morning wolfing down mimosas. Not a dry eye at the table, either.

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    4. Really, people cried during the interviews? Who? Cooper?

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    5. Click on my name for an important Pasadena Patch article about Bill Bogaard getting his hearing tested.

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    6. Figure this out. The PUSD spent lots of time and money on all this redistricting and now, coming up on a future agenda, they are going to review school district boundaries and attendance populations. So all that redistricting nonsense may have been for nought.

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    7. The boundary stuff was supposed to be as an alternative to closing more schools, but it looks like they may do that anyway.

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    8. I do not believe that voting districts have anything to do with what is coming up on the agenda. I think that the board is studying the actual school boundary areas as they consider closure of some of the schools in the district.

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    9. I think this is plan #2 for the Act crowd of fools.

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    10. http://penfamilies.org/pen-advocates-broader-scope-for-boundary-committee

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  6. How do we toss Cooper out as the board president? That's what I want to know. She is useless!

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    1. Maybe we could get the Pasadena City Council to institute a city-wide mumu ban. Kind of like they did with plastic bags.

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    2. I think there were a few people in the audience at the interviews she would have enjoyed choking....

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    3. Actually, Renatta wore pants yesterday.

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    4. Maybe she'll start wearing a Moe wig? You know she wants to twist Elizabeth's nose and double bop Selinske on the head.

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    5. Renatta must be quite angry with any number of people. She was under orders to bring this home for Murga and failed spectacularly.

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    6. Maybe she'll have to relinquish her presidency?

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  7. How is it that the story that Brandenburg brought forth regarding the Pasadena Latino Coalition didn't make the local media?
    The redistricting was clearly a failure. No Latinos on the board is a major issue, given the large proportion of the Pasadena population not being represented.
    But Renatta insulting the Latino community by basing an appointment on race, rather than merit is an example of why Cooper needs to be censured.

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    1. Why are there no Board of Education members from the Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Community? Seems homophobic to me.

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    2. @9:32 - If the Latino's in District 3 had run a better candidate, or supported the one that ran, and then got in their community to encourage everyone to vote for that candidate, then there could have been a different result.

      Also, many of the school age children in the PUSD have parents who are not registered to vote because they came here illegally. And frankly, that would not have stopped them from canvassing their neighborhood for a Latino candidate, or making phone calls to their neighbors. Instead of blaming the system, the Latinos should work harder at identifying better candidates.

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    3. There are larger political forces at work here 10:23.
      These forces took advantage of a population's disenfranchisement. How do you think those boundaries were drawn? How was it the only Latino on the board was drawn right out of his district? Why was it that one of the big proponants of the redistricting, Stella Murga, tried so desperately to get on the Board. None of this was a coincidence, nor can it simply be blamed on "illegals".

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    4. Miramontes made a lot of enemies with his bluntness and calling people out. The slap in the face the night he was NOT recognized, while Honowitz got all the praise from the political who's who said a lot.
      But Miramontes gave Latino parents and students hope, hope for change. No matter what anyone says about him, he was empowering a group of people who've been historically disenfranchised.
      I hope Miramontes made his mark, and that the families he fought for recognize his impact, feel empowered, and continue to push for the needed change.

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    5. i am concerned hat there aren't enough narcissists on the board. i would do something about it, but i am too busy enjoying my own company

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  8. I agree with you about the larger political forces at work. However, Murga did not run in District 3. This district was clearly drawn for a Latino, thus my comments.

    Latinos will have another prime opportunity in 2015 to elect a candidate in District 4, another majority Latino district. Hopefully they put forth someone qualified, and who is not in the grip of the "larger political forces at work." If Selinke and Cooper, the incumbents in that district, do not do a better job on the board, they can look forward to a large group of interested people to smash them to pieces in the election.

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    1. Point taken 11:16. I would expect the people of District 4 to take note of what Selinske, and more so Cooper, have done. They need to rise up and speak loudly at the polls.

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    2. Democracy only works when the people are involved. When they stay home and don't vote we get something like we saw yesterday.

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    3. Illegals can't speak up at the polls.

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    4. 1:59 But they sure take up a teacher's time in class. Think how much smaller the classes would be if illegals weren't in class. Legal kids would get more time.

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    5. Not from teachers like you, PUSD teacher. There's more pressing issues, like getting out the door as soon as the students get up from their desks.

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  9. Chief Black KettleJune 2, 2013 at 2:00 PM

    My heartiest congratulations to your eldest son on his musical achievements. May he ascend to the heights of a John Rampal or James Galway.

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  10. Good news all around. Congrats on your son's achievements, Moderator, and Rahn seems like a good choice, altho' I also tip my hat to Cushon Bell, Gretchen Vance, and Tony B for standing up. Cushon and Gretchen are hyperinvolved parents, which would be good to see on the school board -- Tony didn't stand a chance in hell of winning, but he woulda made it interesting!

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    1. Thanks Sage. From no vote to our first BOE rep in years. You just never know how things are going to turn out!

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